Tag Archives: Sterling

Albie Newton

Albie Newton
Josh Funk and Ester Garay
Sterling

Albie Newton is a thinker, a ‘child genius’ so we’re told, learning a new language almost every week and he also loves to tinker.
The lad starts school mid term and in the hope of making some friends, decides to build a special surprise gift for his new classmates.

It doesn’t take long for the newcomer to start rubbing the others up the wrong way. In addition to shining in all areas of the curriculum,

his behaviour is more than a little disruptive, particularly when he appropriates items from the classroom; and the noises he makes are nothing short of ear shattering.

Albie however, is completely oblivious to the effect of his actions; his social skills are clearly nothing like as developed as his intellectual and inventive ones.

Fortunately for Albie though, one of his classmates, Shirley by name, has been keeping an eye on his secret activities and seems willing to give him a chance. She thinks that perhaps Albie is well intentioned. Can she convince the others to give him the benefit of the doubt?

Perhaps, when they see that special gift he’s constructed …

It will be pretty obvious to adults, especially teacher readers of Funk’s seemingly light-hearted rhyming story, that Albie is wired differently from the other children.

With in-built messages about accepting difference and building empathy emerging, it offers plenty to discuss; and illustrator, Ester Garay ‘s bold bright illustrations have plenty of details to amuse, as well as effectively conveying Albie’s abundance of mental and physical energy.

Magna Cow / A Campfire Tale

Magna Cow
Barry Hutchison and Cate James
Little Door Books

Brisket is a cow, an unusual one with especially curly horns, a particularly frizzy tail and, when it’s dark a faint glow emanates from her. Odd though these features might be, there is one that makes her even more extraordinary, she’s magnetic.

It’s this magnetism that causes Magna to create havoc at the cows’ camping trips,

bring about the dismantling of their treehouse and appropriate the cutlery at a party.

Consequently when the big day of the Moove to the Music dance competition comes around, Brisket is banished to the top of the hill while the other bovine beauties strut their stuff.

Suddenly disaster, in the form of a trundling tractor moving downhill, is about to strike. The dancing cows are too busy prancing and pirouetting to notice what’s happening. Only Brisket from her hilltop vantage point sees the danger: can she save the day?

Cate James daftly depicts this bonkers, but fun tale, about mooving metal, bovine bother and friendship from Barry Hutchison, with appropriately crazy-looking cattle and their shenanigans.

Specially written songs can be downloaded from the publisher’s website.

A Campfire Tale
Sarah Glenn Marsh and Ana Gómez
Sterling

The first night away from home, be it a sleep over or as in this story, a camping trip, can be a scary thought for some children and it appears so with Dragon too.

The child narrator though offers to act as his buddy. Assuming he’ll be a great companion, she takes him swimming, sailing and involves him in the whole gamut of camp-related activities,

even a puppet show; but all go pretty badly to say the least.

Perhaps it was a big mistake to take on the Dragon as her buddy especially as the other campers now seem to be avoiding them.

Come the evening, Dragon is a disaster when he attempts to help with the tent pitching and insists on listening to ghost stories, despite being scared stiff of same, but the last straw is his effort to get rid of a spider, which only serves to inflame the situation.

The narrator sends him packing and in the morning, there’s no sign of the scaly character.
The campers search for him in the woods but quickly get lost; what’s more they hear something growly in the distance.

Could this be an opportunity for Dragon to redeem himself perhaps?

The bold, bright illustrations by Ana Gómez are comical and engaging, showing the feelings of both Dragon and narrator.

But the Bear Came Back

But the Bear Came Back
Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor
Sterling

‘You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it’ is what the little boy protagonist in this story discovers when a large furry ursine character comes a-knocking.

It all starts quite politely on the boy narrator’s part; he’s disturbed from his reading and understandably a tad irritated but isn’t on this occasion rude. ‘And I said, “Go home, bear.” And that was that. ‘

However, this bear is persistent, returning over and over;

but time and again the boy sends him packing until things get just too much. He yells at the creature at the top of his voice, after which there are no further visits.

Peace ensues but the boy isn’t as happy as he’d expected; in fact, he really misses that hulking great irritating animal.

Can he ever find his friend again? The boy certainly goes to great lengths to do so …

but will he ever hear that longed for knock on his door?

There is much to discuss about the way the characters behave in Tammi Sauer’s gently humorous story – not the least being the lengths each goes to find a friend.

Day Taylor’s illustrations are captivating: the bear is adorable – decidedly huggable in fact; and there are lots of lovely details to spend time over.

The New Baby / Marigold & Daisy

The New Baby
Lisa Stickley
Pavilion Books
In her third book, big sister Edith – not very big but bigger than she was last year – gives readers a month-by-month account of the first year with her baby brother Albert.

He arrived, so she tells us, in a basket one January day, very tiny and making his presence felt with loud, I’m hungry ‘Waaaaaaa’ sounds followed sometime later by ‘teeny windy pops’.

As the year progresses Albert takes pleasure in watching the movement of a home-made mobile dangling above his cot; befriends the rattly Gerald Giraffe;

increases the volume of his bottom sounds and produces lots of very stinky nappies; and adds raspberry blowing and ‘slurpy sloppy’ to his repertoire.

By the summer he’s beginning to sit up and in August begins the messy process of eating baby food.

Big sis. gives him a very gentle go on the swings in September; then in October he becomes a fast crawler and in November an ever faster one especially when he’s set his sights on there’s a tower to demolish.

December sees Albert take his first tottering steps, wobbling his way around penguin style.
Then it’s time to celebrate his first birthday. Who wouldn’t love this special little brother with all his funny noises? Edith most certainly does.

I’m sure there were times when our young narrator felt jealous of the attention others were giving baby Albert but she doesn’t tell readers about it; rather Edith concentrates on the fun side of having a new sibling keeping her chronicle up-beat and accompanying it with a plethora of sound effects along the way.

As with previous Edith stories, Lisa Stickley’s collage style illustrations have a fresh child-like quality that makes them entirely appropriate to accompany her young narrator’s voice.

An enchanting book: it’s perfect for sharing with early years audiences and likely to spark off lots of my little brother/sister discussion.

That transition from only child in the family to big brother or sister can be a difficult time for young children so if you want something portraying that you might try:

Marigold & Daisy
Andrea Zuill
Sterling

Life is pretty good for Marigold until the birth of baby snail sister Daisy.

Daisy is a real pain, stealing the limelight and following her older sibling everywhere. Marigold feels left out and resentful,

particularly when Daisy ruins her favourite toy and goes off to be on her own.

However when she finds herself in a sticky situation, guess who comes to her rescue. Perhaps having a little sis. isn’t so bad after all.

Wonderfully expressive pen-and-ink and watercolour illustrations document this quirky story with a gentle humour. The plethora of speech bubbles add to the fun.

Not Just a Book / A Couch for Llama

Not Just a Book
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press

A book is for reading, yes certainly, but according to Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross’s latest offering, books can sometimes be so much more.
On occasion they might serve as hats, or make a tent for a cat, prevent a table from wobbling. A book makes a good tunnel for your toy train, can become an extra block for building with,

even perhaps a flower press.
This multi-purpose object is the perfect fly-swatter …

or protector of your drink from marauding wasps.

More important though than any of these additional uses, and that’s the real message herein, books have the power to affect how you feel;

to help you go to sleep, to educate; the best are never forgotten and best of all, a book is something to read and love …

Silly? Yes, Fun? Yes.

Jeanne Willis’s brief rhyming text and Tony Ross’s wonderful illustrations – look out for the mischievous cat on every page – make for an enjoyable and playful message about the importance of books.

A Couch for Llama
Leah Gilbert
Sterling

The Lago family absolutely love their old couch: it’s been the site of many good together times but now a new one is much needed. Off they go in the car to the furniture shop where they find the perfect replacement.

On the way home however, something happens that results in their new item of furniture ending up in Llama’s field. Llama is by nature a curious creature and so he starts to investigate this new arrival. He sniffs it, greets it and even tries sharing his lunch with it but none of these moves elicits any response. Llama tries lunching on the couch instead but it tastes awful and it’s too heavy to move.
The couch is useless, is his conclusion so Llama decides to ignore the object.
This unsurprisingly becomes exceedingly boring and so the exasperated animal leaps onto it and suddenly comes understanding …

By this time the owners of his new lounger have returned to claim their lost item but Llama refuses to budge. There’s only one option that will work for one and all: now what might that be? …
In her debut picture book Leah Gilbert mixes the realistic and the ridiculous with just the right degree of each for the story to work, but the real strength is in her visuals: in particular the scenes of Llama and his couch encounters are hilarious.

Picture Book Poetry: One Upon A Star and Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night

Once Upon a Star
James Carter and Mar Hernández
Caterpillar Books

Here’s an opportunity to go on an amazing journey without moving from the comfort of your own sofa, courtesy of poet James Carter and illustrator Mar Hernández who take us on an awesome ‘poetry and art meet science’ trip through time and space with a focus on our Sun.
First we head back through history before this happened …

And after a long slow cooling period: ‘A sea of stars at last were born / gradually they fired and formed / out of clouds of dust and gas / each a mighty sparky mass / and one of these became our Sun / our solar system had begun!’
Thereafter Carter’s compelling narrative verse touches upon the growth of our planets, in particular the Earth with its oceans and amazing life forms that rely upon the sun for their continuing existence. His final focus is each one of us, unique individuals – stars and stardust every one.

James Carter’s lucid poetic account of these awesome events, when integrated with Mar Hernández’s dramatic artwork, makes an exciting and impactful book.

Much more down to earth is:

Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night
Dee Leone and Bali Engel
Sterling
The sun is gone; the moon is out: bedtime is nigh.
The author draws listeners into a nocturnal world of fluttering moths, spinning spiders, chirping crickets, flowers closing their petals, floating seeds and swaying willow branches;

past moonlit lakes,

and down to the sea where dolphins cease their leaping and oysters shimmer from the depths, towards farmlands where the animals are beginning to slumber; through a forest and finally into a child’s bedroom with the repeated refrain, ‘Nature’s lullaby fills the night’ punctuating every sequence.

With her gentle, soporific verses Dee Leone transports little ones towards sleep. In tandem with Bali Engel’s tranquil scenes of the bedtime rituals of parent animals, large and small in their natural settings executed in a colour palette of dark blues, purples and greens creates, we have an engaging, calm-inducing bedtime book for little ones.

Frankenbunny / Ten Little Superheroes

Frankenbunny
Jill Esbaum and Alice Brereton
Sterling

Youngest of three brothers, Spencer, knows monsters don’t exist until his siblings Leonard and Bertram start talking about the terrible Frankenbunny just to scare their little brother.
It’s relatively easy being brave during the daytime when mum or dad are on hand to reassure him that monsters aren’t real,

but come bedtime it’s much harder to ignore the graphic descriptions of “crusty fangs, ginormous jaws and flashing red eyes”.

Having made it through the night however, Spencer discovers something in his cupboard next morning that enables him to start planning his revenge on his brothers.

And indeed, it’s truly satisfying.
Light and dark are used to effect in this first person narrative that provides just the right frisson of fear without overdoing it; and shows youngsters it is possible to overcome your own fears in the end.

Ten Little Superheroes
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books

Riotous play superhero style begins when in mid flight, the Ten Little Super-Kids spy the League of Bad Guys plotting in their lair.

And then it’s a case of action stations, as they set about saving the city from the dastardly plotters.

Full of pows, vrooms, bishing, bashing, boshing, splats, zaps and more: can those Super-Kids overcome the very tricky Monstro’s Gang and thwart their villainous attack on Metro Hall? If so they’ll have to contend with cyclonic firing, sticky resin and Kraken’s flailing tentacles, not to mention a sonic boom and a hypnotic yogini.

I suggest a few practice run-throughs before reading this aloud to a group of small super-hero enthusiasts; it’s pretty fast paced and needs lots of ‘wellie’ to deliver the onomatopoeia-packed action.

However thereafter time will be needed to explore the kaleidoscopically coloured scenes of mischief and mayhem.

I’ve signed the charter  

Bears and More Bears

Willa and the Bear
Philomena O’Neill
Sterling

Made by her Grandma Bibbie, Willa’s rag doll Rosie is her constant companion until one winter’s day as Willa and her parents are on their way to Grandma’s birthday celebration, the doll falls from the sleigh and is lost in the dark snowy woods.

They stop and search but have no luck; little do they know that the doll has been found.

When they reach their destination, her gran gives Willa a little bear that she’s made. Later, Willa spies a real and very large bear through the cabin window …

but when they open the door all they find on the doorstep is Rosie. “That bear must be a friend of yours,” her gran tells Willa.

On the way back home Willa leaves her new toy bear in the snow with the words, “My friend will love you,” …

Despite its chilly setting this is a warm-hearted, albeit rather unlikely story of reciprocal giving and receiving; and the old-fashioned, cosy paintings have a Nordic feel.

Where Bear?
Sophy Henn
Puffin Books

The fabulous Sophy Henn’s first picture book is now out in board book format and is just right for small hands.

It’s a heart-warming tale that stars a bear and a boy who have shared the boy’s abode since the bear was a cub and the boy considerably smaller.

Bear has now grown too large for the house and the boy, eager to find his friend a suitable new residence, sets out with him.
But where bear?” he asks over and over, until finally they find a suitable location and the boy heads back to his home.

Both bear and boy are happy, particularly as their friendship can be continued, verbally at least.

With such superb characterisation it’s a delight through and through.

Baking Bonanza: Dough Knights and Dragons / Jake Bakes a Monster Cake

Dough Knights and Dragons
Dee Leone and George Ermos
Sterling

Here’s a ‘Great British Bake Off’ tale set in the days of yore when dragons roamed and knights fought them.
A young knight comes upon a cave filled with novel ingredients and cannot resist cooking up a huge pot of savoury stew.
So delicious is its aroma that it arouses the resident dragon and before long the two have formed a forbidden friendship because it’s deemed in this land that every knight must slay a dragon and every dragon must eat a knight.
As their friendship flourishes so do their culinary skills but as the day of impending contest draws ever nearer, the two realise that they must cook up a clever solution by means of the thing that has bound them together in friendship.

And what a tasty solution that turns out to be with its mix of semantic niceties and unusual shaped doughnuts;

and the outcome changes the nature of competitions between knights and dragons for ever more,
This is a recipe for a lip-smacking storytime: there’s adventure, friendship, edibles, suspense, chivalry and a sweet ending, all delivered through a rhyming narrative readers aloud will enjoy sharing, and vibrant, playful digital illustrations.
Take a look at the end papers too.

More cooking in:

Jake Bakes a Monster Cake
Lucy Rowland and Mark Chambers
Macmillan Children’s Books

Jake is busy in the kitchen; he’s called in his pals to help him bake an extra delicious cake for sweet-loving Sam’s birthday tea.
His fellow monsters scoff at Jake’s cook book deeming instructions a waste of time …

and instead invent their own recipe, a concoction of altogether unsavoury items. Surprisingly, the mixture tastes pretty good to Jake though.

When it’s baked to perfection, off go Jake and his fellow cooks to deliver the enormous confection; but suddenly disaster strikes …
Is that the end of a wonderful birthday treat for Sam?
Lucy Rowland and Mark Chambers have together rustled up a deliciously disgusting tale. Lucy’s the rhymer and Mark the picture maker and their latest offering is sure to illicit plenty of EEUUGHs from young audiences.
There’s an added treat in the form of a pack of scratch ‘n’ sniff stickers: clothes pegs at the ready!

Perilous Play: Game of Stones / Rocket Shoes

Game of Stones
Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing

Young Pod of Stone Underpants fame is back and he’s in inventive mode once more.
Now he wants to make a ‘whizzy’ game to amuse his younger brother, Hinge.
His first creation is certainly that but there appears to be a design fault …

and the ‘Yow-Yow’ ends up being banned by their dad.
Back to the drawing board: more chiselling, sawing and hammering, and the result is ‘Crackit’.

That meets the same fate as Pod’s previous effort – a paternal ban.
His third attempt looks like a winner but the boys must find somewhere away from their parents to use it, and for this Pod calls on the assistance of their friends, both animal and human. What on earth could they be moving all those huge blocks of stone for?
A playful tale, some groan worthy puns, not least being the book’s title and suitably crazy scenes of Stone Age carry-ons make for another diverting drama from Pod’s creators.

Rocket Shoes
Sharon Skinner and Ward Jenkins
Sterling

When is it right to break the rules? Essentially it’s a philosophical question that might well be explored in a classroom community of enquiry session.
It’s the one young José must work out when his neighbour, who has been instrumental in getting his and the other children’s amazing rocket shoes banned, is in great danger.
The boy is sitting outside pondering on the aeronautical acrobatics he and his friends have enjoyed …

when a snow storm suddenly engulfs Mrs Greg who is outside searching for her missing cat.
Should he, or should he not get out his forbidden rocket shoes and whizz to her aid?

To reveal what happens would spoil the story, so I’ll just say, all ends highly satisfactorily for everyone in town …
Told through Sharon Skinner’s whizzy rhyme and Ward Jenkins zippy, cartoonish digital illustrations, this will appeal especially to those who like to break the rules from time to time.

I’ve signed the charter  

I’m Afraid Your Teddy is in Trouble / Kick! Jump! Chop!

I’m Afraid Your Teddy is in Trouble
Jancee Dunn and Scott Nash
Walker Books

What do your stuffed toys get up to when you go off to school? A whole lot of mischief, if this tale is anything to go by.
Teddy calls his friends over and they have a wild time. Seemingly, if the evidence is right, they make pancakes, use the bed as a trampoline with disastrous results – for the bed that is. The walls become daubed with murals, albeit pretty good ones and there’s been some dressing up too.

Then there was a sliding contest, a spot of sledging, folllowed by a rather sticky but extremely yummy bath.

Unsurprisingly all these high-spirited antics attract the attention of the neighbours, for it’s they who call the cops.
It’s as well that the particular cops who attend the incident are of the sympathetic kind: the two of them know just how to deal with high-spirited, partying toys; but what about their ringleader? Will he too be let off with a warning from Officer Hardy?

Dunn’s narrative takes the form of a crime reconstruction directed to the bear’s owner and of course to readers, and Nash’s accompanying energetic digital illustrations are full of fun. Doubtless youngsters will relish the misdemeanours of the frolicsome toys. They surely have a much more exciting time than a house full of electronic devices, but then again, you never know …

Kick! Jump! Chop!
Heather Ayris Burnell and Bomboland
Sterling

I’m always been a bit of a sucker for fractured fairy tales and pounced on this one when it arrived.
It’s the classic Gingerbread Man story given a ninja twist. Take a look at the cover and you’ll see the illustrations are of cut paper from a team called Bomboland (which is actually an Italy-based illustrations studio): the ninjabread man really means business with that kick move and flying star cookie.
The story begins in the dojo with the declaration “Sparring is getting stale. We need to spice things up.” Sensei then concocts a super-spicy dough and from the oven soon after, erupts a ginger ninja issuing the challenge of the title: KICK! JUMP! CHOP! followed by “As fast as you can. You can’t beat me, I’m the Ninjabread Man!” and off he goes.
His challenge is taken up by, in turn Raccoon …

Cheetah and Monkey, none of whom is equal to the super-sparrer.
Then comes Fox, who appears to be getting the better of his challenger. Is the crafty cookie about to meet his demise in the snappy jaws of his vulpine assailant?

With its super-punchy paper collage-style scenes and spicy punning narrative, this toothsome tale will go down especially well with action-loving listeners, particularly those with a penchant for the martial arts.

Famously Phoebe / Goodnight, Little Bot

Famously Phoebe
Lori Alexander and Aurélie Blard-Quintard
Sterling

Young Phoebe is used to being in the limelight; no matter where she goes she gets special attention and so sees herself as a star.
Then into her heretofore spectacular life comes a new and much tinier star, named Rose.
Suddenly nobody is interested in Phoebe; it’s Rose, Rose, Rose all the time and it’s not as though the new babe even wants to be famous. In fact she makes it pretty clear, it’s far from so.

Re-enter Phoebe stage right. Can she not only gain the spotlight, but manage to bring a smile to Rose’s face?

Maybe there are more important roles to play than star of the show, roles such as Big Sister for instance.

Lori Alexander’s playfully constructed narrative and Aurélie Blard-Quintard’s expressive watercolour and pencil illustrations artfully spotlight Phoebe’s changing emotions in this amusing addition to the new sibling shelf.

Goodnight,Little Bot
Karen Kaufman Orloff and Kim Smith
Sterling

Like the majority of little humans, Little Bot is still full of energy when his mother robot tells him it’s time for bed.
She then puts him through his usual bedtime routine: TV off, a scrub bath, pyjamas on, a snack and drink, comb, brush and storytime will all be familiar, especially the demand for ‘ten more books’. There are differences though and herein lies the fun: Little Bot snacks on batteries, drinks oil, combs his circuits and brushes his bolts …

before plugging in to a recharger (he barely needs that from the way he’s been whizzing around).
Orloff’s jaunty rhyming text and Smith’s bold, cartoonish, digital illustrations work well together in this pre-bedtime tale and yes, after hugs, kisses and a lullaby, Little Bot does finally wind down and drift off to dreamland.

Bonkers About Beetroot / Pony in the City

Bonkers About Beetroot
Cath Jones and Chris Jevons
Maverick Arts Publishing

Sunset Safari Park is in danger of being closed down due to a distinct lack of visitors. Zebra calls a meeting of its inmates in the hope they might have suggestions as to how to save their home. Despite Penguin’s discouraging “Nobody comes because we’re boring” comment, Zebra remains determined to do something to attract the crowds. Beetroot is his plan: the biggest in the world and the animals are to grow it. “BONKERS!” is pessimistic Penguin’s response to this idea and to pretty much every stage in the growth of the vegetable from manure heap planting ground …

to the large beet that soon attracts the crowds.
So successful is the vegetable that it just goes on growing and growing until there’s no longer room for visitors.

Penguin’s solution is a pretty drastic one but will it have the effect he hopes? Can the safari park be saved after all?

Really, there’s no other way to describe this story that to borrow Penguin’s much used word, ‘BONKERS’.
The contrasting characters: optimistic Zebra and pessimist, Penguin complement one another well, making for a lively and quirky story time read aloud that invites audience participation.
Chris Jevons’ vivid illustrations of zoo residents, the zoo’s human visitors and of course, the beetroot itself, provide plenty to giggle over.

Pony in the City
Wendy Wahman
Sterling

Otis, a pony at the Pony Paddock gets on well with the children who visit his home; in fact he’s ‘saddled with questions’ about them. Do they gallop and kick? Do they ever walk on all fours? Do they graze on grass and daisies? The older ponies ignore his constant questioning so Otis sets out to find some answers for himself.
He visits the city park where hiding himself away, he observes and discovers their movements and sounds are not very different from his. Next stop is their homes; ‘such big barns’, he decides.
Otis discovers many more similarities …

but then suddenly comes the scary realisation that he’s far from home, alone in the big city and it’s way past time to sleep.

Next morning he hears a familiar clippity cloppity sound; could it be one of his fellow ponies coming to look for him?
No it isn’t; but his finders are equally surprised to see the little pony so far from his home and more than willing to take him back home where, inevitably, he has lots of questions to answer …
This gentle adventure with witty collage style illustrations of a children’s world interpreted through the limited experiences of a pony, offers food for thought about judgements and diversity.

Alfie / Wakey, Wakey Elephant

Alfie
Thyra Heder
Abrams
‘There are two sides to every story’ is an oft-used statement and so it is in this picture book. First we hear from six year old narrator Nia who receives a new pet, turtle Alfie on her birthday. She’s thrilled with the creature, introducing him to friends, making him presents, telling him stories and dancing and writing songs for him, all without anything by way of a response from Alfie. As time passes, Nia’s enthusiasm has waned considerably.
Come her seventh birthday; Alfie is conspicuous by his absence. Where has he gone?

Here the story turns and we hear from Alfie. He has after all appreciated her love and attention and wants to show Mia, by finding a present that will make her equally happy on their joint birthday.
Alfie’s quest for the perfect gift takes him outside for the first time in his life where he receives help first from dog, Toby, then from a snail and finally, after a long nap, from a fish.

It’s in the pond that Alfie eventually finds just the right thing and by the end of the book, there are two very happy celebrators of a birthday, albeit not the one Alfie thinks they’re celebrating.
Expressive watercolour scenes, punctuated by a single impactful, minimal black and white spread, combined with a spare, straightforward text, document this lovely story of appreciation and friendship.

Wakey, Wakey, Elephant!
Linda Ravin Lodding and Michael Robertson
Sterling

What do you do when your elephant friend simply refuses to wake from his slumbers no matter what you do? That’s the problem facing young Edgar.
He’s tried the usual shouting and tickling neither of which caused so much as an eyelid twitch. A flock of roosters fails to rouse him, ditto a band marching right through his bedroom and a cha-cha chicken dance on the bed is similarly ineffective as are popping balloons and a particularly itchy party hat. (Young listeners will by now have guessed the reason Edgar is so eager to wake his pachyderm pal.) Even all these things done simultaneously  does not cause so much as a stirring from the slumberer.

Could a few softly spoken words in Elephant’s ear perhaps do the trick?

With its themes of friendship and perseverance, and its satisfying finale, this lively romp coupled with Robertson’s illustrations of exuberant activities taking place around the blissfully slumbering elephant, will illicit giggles from young listeners.

Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew / Pirates in Classroom 3

Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew
Harry L. Herz and Benjamin Schipper
Sterling

Shiver me timbers, I cannot imagine how many crews of piratical dinosaurs there be a’sailin’ the high seas, however here’s one more to add to their number. Meet Pat, Terry, Kyle and of course, their captain, Rex. A right troublesome journey it is they’ve embarked upon too.
First the ship’s rudder becomes fodder for a giant shark; then down comes a fog and having survived those mishaps thanks to some clever steering on Pat’s behalf …

and Terry’s navigation skills they find themselves on dry iand and faced with a volcano at the bottom of which, the treasure might just be buried.
And buried it is but having unearthed same, there follows the question of ownership of the booty. Cap’n Rex doesn’t want to share: his crew think otherwise and let him know in no uncertain terms …

Who is cleverer, Cap’n or crew: that’s the vital question?
With its pepperings of “Arrr“, “Aye” and “can’t ye?”, this is a fun read aloud with plenty of silliness, a bounty of comical illustrations and a final author’s note of piratical words just a few of which come up in the narrative.

Pirates in Classroom 3
Alison Donald and Ben Whitehouse
Maverick Arts Publishing

Still those pirate tales keep on coming; here’s one that starts off in a class of lively children.
When Ms Bitsy leaves her classroom unattended, the children are more than a little surprised by the sudden appearance of Captain Calamity who claims to be searching for treasure; treasure which according to his map is located ‘under the sea’ in their classroom.
The children are eager to help in the search …

but can they locate the booty before the dreaded Pirate Bloodloss gets his hands on it?
Perhaps the clue is in the alphabet frieze, there’s certainly a C there.
Before you can say, ‘Ms. Bitsy’, their teacher has returned and is ready to join them all in an underwater hunt.

A teacher who throws herself into a piratical adventure and is willing to stand up to a bullying pirate will surely win over early years listeners.

Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster

Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster
Richard Torrey
Sterling

Having put up with her mother’s fixing of her unruly hair and consumed her breakfast, Ally, or Ally-saurus as she insists on being called, sallies forth outside to find her friends. Their morning of imaginary play is summarily interrupted by newcomer, Maddie, a control freak if ever there was one. Everything just has to be done by the rules – her rules.

Ally, Kal and Petey try accommodating her commands into their monster play and while still keeping to their customary roles; but after a while, Maddie seizes Petey’s bear. Then, enough is enough.
“ROARRRRRRRRRR” goes Ally-saurus, angered into finding the courage to uphold her own favoured persona, and firmly standing up to Maddie.

Now it’s Ally-saurus’ turn to lay down some rules before setting off on an afternoon’s super, amazing monster dance of stomping, roaring and laughing, first without and latterly with, a certain monster queen.

Torrey cleverly uses crayon outlines to show the imaginary characters the children assume in their role play, the kind of play that will be familiar to most young children who will likely have already encountered a “Maddie’ of their own.
With its believable characters and themes of friendship and standing up for yourself and others, and clever ending, this is a fun book to share and talk about in an early years story session.

Mr Tweed and the Band in Need / The Case of the Stinky Stench

Mr Tweed and the Band in Need
Jim Stoten
Flying Eye Books
Prepare for a musical magical mystery tour.
The dapper dog with the super tall top hat returns to carry out further public-spirited acts. Now it’s the members of a band – the very one Mr T. has come to the zoo to hear perform – that have, so their leader Wollo walrus informs him, dispersed around the gardens.
The two begin their search with Pinky Jackson, the guitar playing flamingo; not an easy task on account to the large number of the species; but that of course is where readers come in. Once he’s been located, Pinky …

is more than willing to join the hunt and has an idea where trumpet player, toucan Jimmy Toots might be.

He in turn suggests a possible location for sax. player Mary Lou Lemur; so off they go to the Lost Forest. And so it goes on until Otis O’Rangutan trombonist, iguana, Cool Jules drummer and only reptile (he’s pretty tricky to spot), banjo strummer Jellyfish Jack and four other musicians have been found – just in time for the show. The location of the final missing performer happens conveniently, to be in the busy gift shop, which is also the space wherein the stage is set for the concert.
There the entire ensemble comes together to entertain the crowd and thereafter to bid Mr Tweed a rousing farewell.
There’s an interesting mix of human and animal visitors to the zoo, some scenes of which are presented in a kaleidoscope of psychedelic colours absolutely bursting with activity, while others, such as the arctic pool, are rather more restful on the eye, although equally intricate. Every one though, is absolutely brimming over with talk potential and storytelling material.

The Case of the Stinky Stench
Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney
Sterling
Hold your noses; something malodorous is emanating from a certain fridge, but worry not; Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have been called back while holidaying on Marshmallow Coast at the request of Inspector Croissant, Sir French Toast’s nephew. They’re on the case right away searching for what it is that’s causing shelves of food to turn bad and pong alarmingly.
Following clues, the three of them set about searching the fridge’s inner landscape: across Salsa Ravine, around smoggy Mount Everbean and through Applesauce River, but still all they discover are false alarms and red herrings. Will they ever get to the bottom of the mysterious stench: perhaps Casserole Cliff might yield the answer …

and if so, how will Inspector Croissant deal with the culprit?

Replete with a culinary vocabulary and served up in a saucy rhyming text and deliciously funny foody scenes, this tale of stinky sleuthing is satisfyingly silly, not least in its final resolution. There’s even a foldout map of the whole search at the end to feast your eyes on.

I’ve signed the charter  

How To Look After Your Dinosaur / Caring For Your Lion

How To Look After Your Dinosaur
Jason Cockroft
Nosy Crow
The outsized creature herein simply bursts into the life of a small boy when the postman makes a special delivery one day.
Just in case the same thing happens to you, it’s advisable to be in the know. Best then to take it from one who’s learnt from experience: get it right and you’ve got a friend for life.
The day needs to get off to a good start so a nutritional breakfast will give your new pet the energy required for the day: through trial and error you’ll find out what appeals.
Next on the agenda should be a spot of outdoor exercise. The park is a suitable place to head for and inevitably, the animal will need to take a dump at some time so it’s best to take a large container.

Dressing for the occasion, the rules of friendship, regular meals and knowing when to head for home are other important considerations.
Once back indoors, establishing a proper bedtime routine from the outset will make life a lot easier and after a good scrub you can settle down with your pet for a soothing bedtime story …

Essentially this is a giant leg-pull of a book that works on the witty interplay between words and pictures.

More on unusual pet care in:

Caring For Your Lion
Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings
Sterling
It’s the big day; the day a boy’s kitten will finally arrive. Apparently however, the company ran out of kittens and so have sent a lion instead. ‘Luckily, a lion is practically the same thing!’ says the label on the crate and ‘caring for your lion is easy.’ All one has to do is to follow the step-by-step instructions set out in the handy guide provided. Step 1 is to open the crate to reveal the new pet and Step 2, to locate the enclosed feather (to be kept for emergencies) – such as the one referred to in Steps 4 and 5.

Back to Step 3 though lest we get ahead of ourselves; this urges the owner to avoid looking like a zebra, a gazelle or a bunny for obvious reasons. This is where the feather might come in handy; ditto if the ravenous creature accidentally consumes the deliveryman, along with the assorted pizzas you’ve ordered.
Potty Training (with the help of the enclosed deluxe lion potty pack), setting up an appropriate play space, sleeping arrangements, rewards for good behaviour, the bath time ritual …

and the bedtime routine are all covered. And naturally after all this the final ‘purrrrr-fect pet’ step will speak for itself.
Completely antithetical to Tammi Sauer’s deadpan ‘how to’ style’ text are Troy Cummings’ laugh out loud artistic interpretations of the instructions: an altogether uproarious combination.

I’ve signed the charter  

Very Little Rapunzel / Big Little Hippo

Very Little Rapunzel
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
Picture Corgi
Meet Very Little Rapunzel, star of the fourth of the Very Little fairy tale series. She is, so her mum insists in need of a haircut but refuses to visit the hairdresser’s. New hairstyles are tried but none can curb the abundance of her unruly tresses and in a paddy, the little miss hurls her Big Box of Hair Things out of the tower right down to where a Very Little Prince happens to be standing.
Rapunzel lowers her hair at his request and up climbs the prince to play with her. Before you can say itch, both Prince and Rapunzel are scratching furiously and are discovered to have nits.
Treatment ensues with lots and lots … of combing …

complaining, washing and sploshing …

until a certain Very Little miss wilful has a change of heart. She grabs the scissors and …

which leaves her playmate rather stranded, but not for too long. Thanks to some imaginative hair styling, an escape route and more is fashioned by the teasy weezy trio culminating in fun and games for all.
With that disarming smile and spirit of independence, Very Little Rapunzel is set to charm her way into the affections of a whole host of very little listeners.

Big Little Hippo
Valeri Gorbachev
Sterling
The smallest of his family and much smaller than big old Crocodile, very tall Giraffe and giant Elephant,

Little Hippo is far from happy with his lack of stature. His mother’s assurances that he’ll eventually be big like his parents offer no comfort as he wanders among huge trees and tall grasses feeling like the smallest creature in the entire world. Until that is he comes upon a tiny beetle struggling to turn itself the right way up. Little Hippo rescues the creature …

and the words of thanks from its family, “Thank you, Big Hippo!” truly make his day and more importantly change the way he sees himself. “I’m big now!” he announces as he rushes, full of new-found confidence, to tell his mother, passing on the way, all those animals whose largeness had previously made him feel so insignificant.
Proud of his deed of kindness, she renames him “Big Little Hippo”, which is just perfect.
Perspective and scale are effectively and playfully used in Gorbachev’s ink and watercolour scenes of Little Hippo and the other jungle animals in this sweet tale of finding where you fit in the world.

I’ve signed the charter  

Daisy Doodles / Ella Who?

Daisy Doodles
Michelle Robinson, Irene Dickson & Tom Weller
Oxford University Press
Get ready to go doodle crazy with Daisy.
One rainy day the little girl is stuck indoors and almost before she can say ‘Pipsqueak’ her drawing has upped off the page and is helping the child adorn the entire house with doodles of all shapes and sizes.
The rain stops but that is not the end of the adventure; in fact it’s the beginning of a whole exciting experience,

as dragons and dragonflies, castles and carousels, mermaids and much more are conjured into being, which culminates in the claw-wielding, jaw-snapping Battle of Crayon Creek.
All good things have to end though and end they do when the tickly octopus chases everyone back home and mum appears on the scene …

although that is not quite the end of the story …
In this lovely celebration of children’s creativity and imagination, the book’s creators cleverly use the device of a mirror to transport the little girl and her companion into their fantasy world of make-believe and back again: a world created by a variety of doodle-appropriate media.
With all the exciting visuals, it would be easy to overlook Michelle’s manner of telling, which, with its sprinklings of alliteration, and interjections of dialogue, is also a delight and allows plenty of space for Irene Dickson’s illustrations to create their magic.

Ella Who?
Linda Ashman and Sara Sanchez
Sterling
There’s a touch or two of the Not Now Bernard’s about this story of a family moving day. The parents of the young narrator are far too busy to take notice of their daughter’s talk of the presence of an elephant in the living room of the home they’re moving in to.
While mum, dad …

and grandma are engaged in getting their new abode into some kind of order, the little girl, having ensured that her baby brother is soundly asleep, engages in some elephant-shared activities, first in her new bedroom and then, outside in the garden. And that is where our narrator notices a man coming to the front door: a man inquiring about a missing baby elephant going by the name of Fiona and having – so it says in the flier he leaves – a particular penchant for apples, . Surely it couldn’t be … could it?

Much of the humour of this book is in the interplay of words and pictures: It’s the little elephant that hands dad a tool as he struggles to fix the shower – a fact he’s completely oblivious to as he utters the story’s “Ella WHO?” catch phrase. As are the other family members, throughout the book: even on the penultimate spread, having told her mum she’s just been bidding the elephant farewell, she gets this same “Ella WHO?” response from her dad.
An extended joke that works well enough to engage young children who will be amused at the adults who don’t listen and delight in joining in with the repeat question.

I’ve signed the charter  

Tiny Dinosaurs / Dance Is for Everyone

Tiny Dinosaurs
Joel Stewart
Oxford University Press
Daisy is dinosaur mad: so says Rex, the canine narrator of this enchanting picture book. Such is her passion that Rex has to endure all kinds of adornments …

and engage in all manner of dinosaur-like behaviour.

Daisy’s mind is filled with dinosaurs: wherever she and Rex go they keep their eyes peeled for the creatures until one day, right in their very own garden they discover … dinosaurs.
These dinosaurs, Rex informs us, are not large but perfect Daisy-sized creatures. The trouble is, they seem to be all that Daisy is interested in and so …

Everywhere he goes, reminds Rex of his pal: but Daisy won’t even notice I’m missing, thinks Rex.
To say what happens thereafter would be to reveal too much; let me just say that the story reminds me of the opening lines of a song, a Dutch teacher friend of mine once taught one of my nursery classes: ‘Make new friends but keep the old/ Some are silver but the others are gold.’

Dance Is for Everyone
Andrea Zuill
Sterling
There’s a new member in Mrs Iraina’s ballet class: a rather large one with a very long tail. Language is an issue, but she’s a hard worker and able to follow the others so she’s allowed to stay. She does have a tail issue too,

though that is less easy to cope with, on account of that language issue; and the class members are wary of upsetting the newcomer.
Teacher and class together come up with a plan: they create and learn a new dance called “The Legend of the Swamp Queen” starring Tanya, as she’s now called: a role that requires a spot of cummerbund wrapping to keep that errant tail in check …

The audience are enchanted; but the following day, the star is nowhere to be seen …
After some time however, the class receive an invitation to a very special performance …
Droll visuals and a deadpan text combine to make a delicious demonstration of the ‘no holds barred’ idiom.

I’ve signed the charter  

Rainbow & Opposites / Little Mouse’s Big Secret

Rainbow
Opposites

Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
Pleasing design and adorable illustrations are the hallmark of Jane Cabrera’s books for the very young. Her two latest offerings have both those qualities.
Rainbow has die-cut arched pages that build up to form a rainbow.
It’s a fun board book to enjoy together and each colour spread, with its named items …

could make a great starting point for adult and child to participate in some shared storying.
Opposites uses flaps and while young children acquire concepts such as slow/fast and wet/dry from real life experiences, books such as these can facilitate this development in an interactive, playful way, helping to reinforce the vocabulary.

Here you can play a game with your child or children by asking them to guess what is hidden behind each interesting shaped flap before being allowed to open it. This game also introduces the idea of predicting as an important reading strategy.

Little Mouse’s Big Secret
Éric Battut
Sterling
Little Mouse finds a yummy red apple on the ground and decides to keep it a secret. He buries it. Shhhh! Don’t tell. Friends pass by and each wants to know what Mouse is hiding. “It’s my secret, and I’ll never tell,” is Mouse’s reply to Bird, Turtle, Hedgehog,

Rabbit and Frog.
Nature takes its course and eventually, Mouse’s secret’s out – well and truly. Mouse takes a big decision; he shares and all his friends reap the rewards.

The spare, repetitive text and cute yet subtle illustrations make this best for sharing one-to-one or with a very small group of pre-school children. Equally, it’s ideal for beginning readers who are likely to be sufficiently savvy to realise what mouse doesn’t: that right behind his back, a tree is growing …

I’ve signed the charter  

My New Room / Time for a Nap

My New Room
Lisa Stickley
Pavilion Books
Edith, the young girl narrator shares with readers the process of moving into a new room and making it her own. We share too, the comments of other inhabitants of the room starting with Edith’s toy soldier guard, Gary.

As head of moving and room safety, I have been keeping everyone in check to ensure a smooth and safe move, “ he announces.
Next to speak is dog, Albert, who deems the place “usually OK smelly wise”on account of Edith’s almost daily baths. Other toys include the softly spoken, Osbert T. Octopus, Timothy Sloth and Reginald Rabbit, occupants of the spare bed (unless Grandma comes for a sleep-over) and a host of others. Those perching atop the wardrobe have a wonderful view of the garden – perfect for “plane spotting” says Susan hippo, whereas Breton Mouse has found the perfect trampolining spot …

while poor Sebastian Snake has the chilliest spot of all and is thinking of applying “for a promotion.” It looks as though they might all settle happily in their new abode; it looks too as though they’ve been pretty busy creating something special for Edith.

I absolutely loved Lisa Stickley’s Handstand debut; this is even better I think. The text, presented as in a child’s writing book, is deliciously witty and the patterned illustrations adorable. I’d certainly recommend putting this in pride of place on Edith’s bookshelf along side Gary Guardsman, as well as adding it to a family, nursery or early years classroom collection.

Time for a Nap
Phillis Gershator and David Walker
Sterling
Through a gentle rhyming text and delightful, soft-focus pencil and acrylic scenes of a little rabbit and parent, human toddlers can share in their week. Starting with Monday, shopping day,

Gershator and Walker take us through their weekday activities, shopping, playing, a visit to the library for storytime (hooray!), clothes washing and gardening and on Saturday and Sunday, relaxing together.
A crucial part of every one of those days is nap time – not always readily embarked on by little rabbit.

Short and sweet, and ideal for participatory reading with littles: try reading it with a nursery group and then leaving the book with appropriate props or small world toys for children to interact with.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sleeping Bunnies / My First Books/ Picky Eaters

Sleeping Bunnies
Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
The latest Sing along with me title is a favourite with almost every nursery child I’ve encountered; they just love to sing and act out this one. This beautifully illustrated version of the song offers the opportunity to have some book-related singing and manipulative play, lifting the sunshade over the bunny crib and making the sun rise at the same time, in time to hear the ‘merry tune’ from the animal trio that pop up from behind the fence to play to the baby bunnies.

These furry infants are reluctant wakers; ‘Are they ill? Oh so still!’ Oh no! Off they go, hop, hop, hopping till it’s time to stop. Yipee! Delight from cover to cover and if this doesn’t get your sleeping bunny hopping, then scan the QR code on the cover and play it nice and loud …
Books such as these can have another use too: once a child has learned the words by heart, they can return at a later stage and begin to match the words in their head with those on the page – one way into beginning reading.

My First Words
My First Colours and Shapes
My First Animals

Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions
Finnish artist, Metsola has clearly used her background in printing and design to create these three stylish, invitingly interactive board book additions to the Learning Garden series. Each has seven brightly coloured spreads with ten named items per spread; My First Words encompasses items of clothing and a set of hangers, modes of transport; play-related things; Snacktime goodies and a spoon; and things related to the outdoors.
The two final spreads are devoted to Dinnertime and Bedtime.
There’s a related question to discuss on every spread (some more open than others) and an abundance of pattern throughout each book.
My First Shapes and Colours begins with the three primary colours, followed by green, purple and orange, with a final spread of shapes …

My First Animals (my favourite I think, because there’s a slight quirkiness about the animals’ shapes) has a plethora of creatures small and large. The garden,

pond, ocean, jungle, farm, polar regions and savannah are the habitats of the chosen animals; here I think a few of the questions were not so carefully considered: ‘… which animal is the tallest?’ we’re asked. The correct answer relies on knowledge rather than observation of what’s presented on the spread –the giraffe shown is not taller than say, the cheetah, for instance.
There’s rich language learning potential within each book, far beyond the mere naming of the labelled images depicted.

Picky Eaters
Ellen Jackson and Amy-Clare Barden
Sterling Children’s Books
As this playful, rhyming board book demonstrates, picky eaters don’t just come in human form. Creatures large and small, from koalas to caterpillars, turtles to turkeys and honeybees to giant whales are also very choosy about their dietary intake. Their favourite fare, and that of the other animals herein, is revealed by lifting the various flaps, two per double spread.

Fun learning for tiny hands.

I’ve signed the pledge  

 

Pants, Birthdays and Robo-Snot

dscn9554

The Prince of Pants
Alan MacDonald and Sarah McIntyre
Scholastic Children’s Books
Prepare to be dazzled by Sarah McIntyre’s illustrations for this crazy pants-centric tale of little Prince Pip and his nearly calamitous birthday. The young lad leaps from bed on the morning of his special day and his first task is to choose which of his many pairs of underpants are best suited for the occasion.

dscn9555

But when he opens the drawer marked ‘Pants’, disaster has struck; it’s completely empty.
Thus begins a search all over the castle …

%0a

and its grounds, a search that yields nothing to the birthday boy, though listeners will enjoy spotting the whereabouts of the various patterned articles; mine certainly did.
But just when it seems as though this is to be a birthday sans pants, Pip opens a door and receives not one, but two, pantalicious surprises.

dscn9557

This is one more to add to the collection of underpants picture books for which many youngsters have a seemingly insatiable appetite.

%0a

If a T.Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party
Jill Esbaum and Dasha Tolstikova
Sterling
Now there’s a thought – a T.Rex at your birthday party; but that’s exactly what happens to the small boy narrator of this book when he opens the door and discovers a Tyrannosaurus standing on the threshold holding a birthday present.
Seems there’s only one thing to do, though perhaps the birthday boy should have thought twice before allowing this particular guest an entry.
Those T-Rex toenails are not good for the bouncy castle; he gets more than a tad angry when he isn’t allowed to blow out the birthday candles or open the presents, and games are a total no go area.

dscn9401

In short the whole party turns into a roaring disaster. What’s more, the interloper refuses to help clear up; he flatly refuses to leave when asked, gives his host a funny look and …

%0a

Hmm.
There’s a surprising final twist to this whole silly scenario to add to the fun, humorously captured in Dasha Tolstikova’s concluding spread.

Another favourite topic with early years listeners is featured in:

%0a

Robo-Snot
Amy Sparkes and Paul Cherrill
Scholastic Children’s Books
Robots and snot: surely not? Perhaps never before, but when Little Robot’s nose starts to feel uncontrollably itchy and a vast amount of gooey green stuff shoots from his nostrils, that’s what he decides to call this strange nasal emanation.
Pretty soon his siblings have designs on the sticky stuff – seemingly it can be put to all manner of uses – but Little Robot isn’t prepared to share; he has his sights set on the big time …

dscn9546

Everything goes swimmingly for a while but then disaster strikes in the form of an unexpected sneeze; Little Robot is left alone and well and truly up to his knees in the now-infamous, green goo of his own making.

%0a

Time for some snot-blotting but what can he use …
Told in jaunty rhyme and through brighter than bright, action-packed illustrations, this is a laugh aloud tale that I suspect will become a ‘read it again’ story time choice.

 

The Snowflake Mistake / The Bot that Scott Built

%0a

The Snowflake Mistake
Lou Treleaven and Maddie Frost
Maverick Arts Publishing
The latest scientific research shows that what we’re told as children – that every snowflake is different – isn’t altogether true, although there are a great many structural variations. Now here’s a modern pourquoi tale explaining the popular idea that every one is different.
Princess Ellie lives with her mum, the Snow Queen, in a floating ice palace high above the clouds. In that palace is an amazing machine that collects clouds, squishing, crunching and stamping them to make into identical snowflakes.

dscn9243

But when Ellie’s mum has some business to attend to elsewhere, the young miss, (who would much prefer to be out playing) is left in charge of the machine. She decides to speed up the snow production …

%0a

and that’s when things, or rather the machine goes terribly wrong, and with a BOING! BANG! POP! it grinds to a halt.
With the only alternative being no snow for the children to enjoy, Ellie knows she must find another way of making snowflakes. Out comes her scissors and with the help of the birds, she makes snowflakes of all shapes and sizes, not perfect exactly, but every one beautiful, every one different. Hooray!
Full of wintry delight this rhyming story is another invention from the creator of the Oojamaflip – another quirky machine. Maddie Frost’s digitally rendered collage-style illustrations, especially those of the snowflake machine, are great fun and the final page provides information on how to make a snowflake.

dscn9187

The Bot That Scott Built
Kim Norman and Agnese Baruzzi
Sterling
It’s Science Day for Scott and his classmates and it’s Scott’s turn to demonstrate his robot. Things don’t go quite to plan though and that moment of glory rapidly descends into chaos as angry ants rampage, freaky frogs frolic and feast on flies, there’s a big-bellied boa on the loose and a whole lot more besides.

dscn9188

The cumulative rhyme dashes along at a frenetic havoc-making pace; and with lashings of alliteration and illustrations packed with hilarious details as the whole session turns from calm to mayhem, young listeners have plenty to enjoy as the catastrophes cascade into being until finally, a sense of order is restored. PHEW! Now who could have pressed that button in the first place, one wonders.

Creature Close Up

%0a

Creatures Close Up
Philippe Martin and Gillian Watts
Firefly Books
If you’re at all interested in natural history, or know children who are, then take a look at the stunning photographic images in this book. Philippe Martin, captures his subjects in pin sharp focus by taking multiple close-up shots which are slightly different and combining them into a single image using computer software. The results are truly amazing. Most of the creatures were photographed in the Madagascan rainforest and some in the south of France where Martin lives. You can see every minute detail of the insects,

dscn9166

amphibians, reptiles, spiders, crustacea and mammals he has chosen as his subjects.
Every page evokes a sense of awe at the wonders of nature and nature as designer.

%0a

Please Be Nice To Sharks
Matt Weiss and Daniel Botelho
Sterling
Over a dozen sharks introduce themselves in this photographic parade of one of the world’s threatened species; threatened partly because of their popularity as the chief ingredient of shark’s fin soup, a Chinese delicacy but they’re also hunted for sport. Their loss as a species would be disastrous for the food chain as a whole as they play a vital role in keeping the animal populations of the oceans in balance. From the largest Whale Shark to the Bamboo Shark, one of the smallest …

dscn9181

each variety represented concludes its personal resume with the urgent plea: Please be nice to … sharks” and the final spread offers further information about what this means for we humans. One for the primary school topic box I suggest.

dscn9172

Dinosaurs of the Upper Cretaceous
David West
Firefly Books
If you’re a child fascinated by dinosaurs – and that’s an awful lot of children – you probably can’t have too many books on the subject. This particular one is part of a series of six each of which covers a specific period, that together make up the Mesozoic Age. The twenty five dinosaurs included herein are from 89 to 65 million years back – the period known as the Upper Cretaceous and, after an introduction to the period, are arranged in alphabetical order. Among them are some of the most well known such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops but many of those featured are less familiar, certainly to me. I’d not heard, for instance, of the Deinocheirus whose name means ‘horrible hand’ and whose fossil remains have been discovered in Mongolia.

%0a

Helpfully there is a shadow image of either a human (child or adult) or a cat alongside each of the computer-generated dinosaur images to gauge their relative sizes.
Interesting facts such as what each one ate, the meaning of its name, a description of specific features and where fossil remains have been found are provided. Addicts in the 6-11 age group will probably want to collect the whole set.

Wings! / Bertie Wings It

DSCN8709

Wings
Paul Stewart and Jane Porter
Otter-Barry Books
Paul Stewart, co-creator of the wonderful Edge Chronicles series turns his hand to picture book writing and has teamed up with Jane Porter; the result is a picture book that celebrates friendship, determination and discovering your own talent.
It’s the Great Gathering of Birds and everyone is there having fun, until that is one of their number shouts, “Last one to the top of the tree’s a rotten egg!” With that the whole gathering takes to the air, all except Penguin. The poor fellow is left all alone and it’s not the first time. Time to teach himself to fly, thinks Penguin but try as he might his feet remain well and truly grounded, despite the help of some of his friends.

DSCN8710

Emu, Kiwi and Ostrich can’t see what all the fuss is about; they much prefer to walk but Penguin remains determined. Owl steps in and offers a spot of coaching but all penguin perfects is running, jumping and flapping. Seemingly nothing can get our penguin pal airborne – or can it? Wait a moment … what’s that string for?

DSCN8711

Oops. Is this the end of Penguin’s flight then?.

DSCN8712

Not quite: there IS one place where those wings of his can be put to good use …

DSCN8713

Jane Porter’s richly coloured mixed media collage pictures are full of humour and pathos: her love of birds shines through in every one.

%0A

Bertie Wings It!
Leslie Corin and Brendan Kearney
Sterling
Bertie knows it’s time to fly the nest. He’s all prepared and the sun is shining: “Today is the day that I fly!” he announces stepping, wings a-tingle, to the edge of his nest. That’s when things start to go wrong.

DSCN8705

Seemingly every other bird around has opinions as to how it should be done. Bertie listens attentively to their input and some time later, he’s ready for the off; he now looks like this …

DSCN8706

and there he goes … Uh-oh!

DSCN8707

That’s not quite the end though: Bertie picks himself up and suddenly he feels freer. Now he KNOWS for sure exactly what to do and this time, he’s going to stay true to himself and follow his own instincts.
A fun look at what happens when you stop trusting yourself and start listening to everyone else’s opinions instead; and a good starting point for discussion.

Meet Ada Twist Scientist, Mira & Em

DSCN8613

Ada Twist, Scientist
Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Readers may well be familiar with previous titles Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck from the creators of this inspiring rhyming read; Ada is the third in the series and like its predecessors, it’s a MUST to add to primary classroom bookshelves.
Ada remains silent, observing, investigating and thinking much until she turns three and then quite suddenly things change. ‘Why?’ she demands to know (of the grandfather clock: “Why does it tick and why does it tock?” “Why don’t we call it a granddaughter clock?

DSCN8614

And once she’s started, there’s no stopping this curious young lass. Her other favourite words are ‘Why?’, ‘What?’ ‘How?’ and ‘When’. (the very ones that should fill the hearts of all early years teachers worth their salt with delight). Yes, this child’s curioslty and imagination have no bounds and thank goodness she has such encouraging parents to support her.

DSCN8615

Then, one spring day – the first in fact – a revolting smell reaches Ada’s nostrils, setting questions flying and her curiosity into over-drive. Could that stench be emanating from Dad’s cabbage stew perhaps? That’s hypothesis number one.

DSCN8616

No – then where? The cat maybe? Wrong again and now Ada’s parents have had enough seemingly and Ada’s banished, silenced. Silent she may be, but her mind’s still very active and pretty soon, so is her thinking pencil until
thank goodness, Ada’s parents have had a rethink and before long, are back in support.
Will she ever find the answer to that ‘stink’ question? I suspect she might, for despite all her failures and blind alleys, Ada is an unstoppable problem-solver and what’s more, she’s ready to enlist the help of others. If not, then she’ll find other equally fascinating questions to pursue.
Delivered through a rhyming text and brilliantly characterised in David Roberts’ stylish illustrations, this story is sure to please young audiences and readers aloud, especially those who want to encourage the spirit of curiosity and champion the cause of girls in science. Ada is a force to be reckoned with – long may she continue. Seek this out and share it wherever you can.
Also take a look at the tale of another young girl who becomes a scientist :

%0A

Mira Forecasts the Future
Kell Andrews and Lissy Malin
Sterling Books
Mira’s mother is a fortune teller but try as she might, all that Mira sees when she gazes into the crystal ball is herself, “Telling the future is a gift,” her mother tells her. “You have it, or you don’t.” Mira most definitely didn’t; but one day she notices something – the wind whirring the blades of her pinwheel and fluttering the streamers of her windsock.

%0A

That’s the start of her meteorological findings and before long she’s putting her scientific talent to good use in predicting the future; she’s a weather forecaster no less.
Creativity and the imagination are at the heart of all scientific discoveries: they all begin with someone asking ‘what if’ or ‘suppose that’ and now here’s a book claiming to inspire creative play:

%0A

The Way to Outer Space
Jay Eunji Lee
Oxford University Press
Herein we meet Em who on this particular day is feeling bored until that is, she receives a mysterious parcel containing a book and a card. She’s on the point of tossing them aside when she notices some rocket-making instructions and pretty soon here she is …

DSCN8608

blasting off and hurtling through the solar system to a strange place – a place she’s told belongs to her; and it’s in serious trouble. A challenge is issued and, accepted …

%0A

and off she goes creating …
Part story (told in comic strip style), part activities, this unusual book is likely to get young minds buzzing and fingers working on creating some of the ideas suggested herein – and one hopes moving on to projects of their own imagining.

WNDB_Buttonlocalbookshops_NameImage-2

Mr Particular & Super-Powered Ollie

%0A

Mr Particular
Jason Kirschner
Sterling
Superhero he may be, but the particular superhero of Jason Kirschner’s debut picture book hasn’t been given his name without reason. Yes, he’s able to perform all manner of amazing feats such as car lifting (toy cars that is), and outrun trains – the kind you see at the zoo – and keeps strictly to his 7.30pm bedtime every single evening. (Parents, take note). He has however, a somewhat self-limiting issue: the little guy ‘liked things the way he liked them – and only the way he liked them.’ There’s an element of that in all of us but his weakness – so we’re told – is that of specifics: ketchup with all non-dessert foods, positively no humming, shirts must always be untucked, nothing with even a slight whiff of coconut about it, no squishy mud or oatmeal and anything green is a total no-no.
All these quirks do have a tendency to hinder him and his pals in their keeping the universe safe from Bad Guys mission …

DSCN7803 (1)

Eventually those long-suffering friends, Atomic Bear, Daring Duck and co. call an emergency meeting, the outcome of which is that Mr Particular is a group member no more; instead Dr Slimyhands -recently defected to the good guys side – takes his place.
Poor Mr Particular is devastated: surely his fate isn’t to be left at home playing with nappy-filling SUPERPOOPER.

%0A

Change is needed … and boy does our hero try, but to no avail – old habits definitely die hard. You’ve gotta hand it to the guy though, he keeps on trying over and over …

%0A

Then suddenly an opportunity presents itself: – those very Super-Duper Group members who have just ousted him – seem rooted to the spot …

DSCN7807 (1)

while Atomic Bear dangles by the seat of his pants from a tree branch. He is however, suspended right above an exceedingly muddy, mega- slimy patch and there just happens to be rather a lot of small insects creating something of a buzz right alongside. Can Mr P. finally overcome those pet aversions of his and save the day, whether or not Atomic Bear is faking the whole thing?

DSCN7809

Highly entertaining, this is told in action-packed comic-book format and is a wonderful take on sensory defensiveness and aversions. And with a few pooey touches thrown in to keep young listeners super-attentive, this one is bound to appeal especially to superhero addicts – and that’s an awful lot of youngsters – who will at the same time be absorbing messages about drawing on one’s inner strength, never saying never and only holding on to what, ultimately is of use to us. Let those super-powers shine through. And for those determined to do so and one hopes that’s everyone, then the inside covers have a show of everything for the job in hand …

%0A

Ollie and his Super Powers
Alison Knowles, illustrated by Sophie Wiltshire
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Language has tremendous power in the way it affects those around us; that we all know from recent events in the UK.
In this slim, illustrated book we meet seven year old Ollie who no longer has his brand new trainers: he’s been bullied into giving them over to two much bigger boys. Ollie’s mum is furious and he’s only told her that he’s left them at school. “You did what? … They cost a fortune, Ollie. You know I can’t afford to get you another pair. Oh Ollie, how thoughtless.” is what she says and off they both go in the car to visit the old people’s home where she works.
It’s there that one of the inmates, Mr Wilcox listens to Ollie and the whole sorry tale of how not only his trainers but other things have been taken from the lad, and about the name calling too. Mr Wilcox then suggests Ollie uses his superpowers to sort out the bullies. And thus begins the unleashing of Ollie’s amazing superpowers: Courage, Bravery, Strength and Calm among others; and with Mr Wilcox as his friend and guide, it’s not too long before Ollie

%0A

(and his team of superpowers) is ready to begin Operation Positivity …
What a good example of the importance of using positive language to encourage, and/or reinforce, positive behaviours.
WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

Whose Story Is This, Anyway?

%0A

Whose Story Is This, Anyway?
Mike Flaherty and Oriol Vidal
Sterling
I’m a sucker for metafictive picture books and this debut story from Mike Flaherty is one of those. Before the narrative even starts, on the title page (above the actual title) we can see evidence of ‘roads not taken’: there are four alternative titles that are deleted although still readable.
Now, let’s meet the star of the show, our young narrator who proudly kicks off with “You want o hear a story? I’ve got a great one. Why is it great? Because it’s all about me.” He has a side -kick, his cat Emperor Falafel. (love that name).

%0A

Now let’s get on with the story … it’s set beside the sea, on the beach, to be more precise; but pretty soon – on the next page to be exact, Salty Pete the pirate has the audacity to interrupt the barely off the ground narrative and then accuse the young protagonist that it’s him doing the interrupting. Cheek of it!
What should appear out of the blue next but a dinosaur …

%0A

followed not long after by …

%0A

Our narrator does his best to continue gallantly, oops did I say gallantly – big mistake because what should come next but a knight in shining armour telling of dragons foul and maidens fair. But then, after mentions of pizza (that’s from the dragon) and toppings for same (that’s from other members of the cast) the lad finally loses the plot – pretty nearly anyhow …

%0A

but manages to bring himself back from the edge – just – and gives all the others their marching orders. Well, you can’t blame the lad; after all he’s been trying his best to get his story told for over twenty pages hitherto.

%0A

Time to get on with the REAL story then: but oh! oh! Our narrator notices a yawn coming from our direction, could that perhaps be indicative of boredom? Maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to make this whole thing into a win/win affair … Once upon a time …
This is an absolute gift for readers aloud who like to throw themselves heart and soul into a rendition: it’s beautifully orchestrated by colour changes of the speech bubbles, too. I had a ball sharing it with a group. I have to admit though, that I love and welcome interruptions to a story – of a questioning kind though, maybe not of the kind herein. However, the interrupters have my sympathies almost as much as the narrator; and this story has terrific potential when it comes to showing (not telling) youngsters the importance of seeing other people’s view points and of delayed gratification.
Orion Vidal’s cartoon style, digitally rendered illustrations really do highlight the escalating drama of the text until that final spread of serenity. I’m assuming its slightly anti-climactic nature is entirely deliberate and intended to set enthralled listeners off on their own flights of fancy fuelled by the crazy cast of characters herein.

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2